Tales from the Darkside

It's strange when you become a fan of someone for their side work. It'd be like being into Kevin Bacon for his band, and not really caring one way or the other about his movies. Or not giving a crap about Garth Brooks, but being really excited about that Chris Gaines fellow.

I've recently read three books by Irish author John Connolly, and when I looked him up, I was surprised to discover that none of these three are any of the eleven written for the apparently well-known Charlie Parker series of crime thrillers. I've never heard of that series at all, probably because I tend to lump fictional crime thrillers into one, large, gelatinous blob. The three that I read are off that beaten path, and I appreciate them all the more for that.

I began with The Book of Lost Things, which is one of those books that sticks with you for months after you read it. Distilled to its essence, it's a old-fashioned fairy tale. That is, the brutally gruesome stories before they all got Disneyfied. It's about an unhappy boy who escapes his stepmother's household, and finds himself in a magical land, searching for the eponymous book and encountering creatures both helpful and dangerous. Mark my words, no magic kiss solves everything in this story. People suffer. People die. And while there's a resolution, things aren't tied up in a neat little bow. It's an utterly fascinating read.

When I heard that Connolly had written (is writing?) a series about a clever young lad and his battle against the invading forces of Hell, I was in. So, I read The Gates and the The Infernals back to back. Demonic invasions can be handled a multitude of ways, and these two books have a much more comedic, lighter tone than The Book of Lost Things. The Gates was pure delight. It's the story of Samuel Johnson, his school chums, his dog, and his newfound demon friend beating back the hordes of evil, led by an ancient monster that now enjoys dressing up like a British housewife. In The Infernals, the story is reversed, as Samuel and his dog are pulled into Hell to battle that same lady, who's out for revenge. While The Gates had a witty, satirical edge, The Infernals felt a little thin, as a lot of sequels tend to be. The tone felt too heavily borrowed from a Terry Pratchett Discworld book. It wasn't a bad book, so much as unnecessary. All three of the books are worth reading, but while the Samuel Johnson series is a fun, quick read, the sobering Book of Lost Things belongs on the classics shelf.

The Book of Lost Things: A
The Gates: B+
The Infernals: B-


Jocelyn said...

I wholeheartedly agree with your assessment, loved The Book of Lost Things so much. I thought about trying the Charlie Parker books, but read one short story and wasn't too excited about it so I guess I have to wait for another stand-alone!

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